Gain for Port Kembla Hospital's food unit

Port Kembla Hospital kitchen staff and supporters protesting on February 26.

Port Kembla Hospital kitchen staff and supporters protesting on February 26.

A community campaign to save Port Kembla Hospital's food production unit has achieved a partial win with some jobs and services to remain.

In February, HealthShare NSW flagged a plan to transfer food production for the region's hospitals to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, in a move that would have cost 30 jobs.

The Port Kembla unit supplies about 7000 meals a day to hospitals in the Illawarra Shoalhaven and South Eastern Sydney local health districts, but staff were told it would close as soon as this month.

However, after a successful community campaign run by the Health Services Union, HealthShare NSW has opted to keep the kitchen operational - albeit in a limited capacity and with fewer staff.

"The Port Kembla unit will no longer make any meals for the South Eastern Sydney local health district from July 1," NSW Health Services Union Illawarra organiser Graham Conroy said.

"However, when the new menu is introduced in September the unit will still be responsible for making the meals with special dietary requirements - such as meals for people with diabetes or with gluten-free diets - for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

"Plus it will continue to act as a distribution centre - the meals made in Sydney will be transported to Port Kembla to be distributed to hospitals all over the region."

Eight to 10 full-time staff will stay on at the unit, while the remainder will be assisted to find work elsewhere in the health district and within HealthShare.

"Five permanent staff have already been successful in gaining other positions within the local health district," Mr Conroy said.

"Expressions of interest will also be called for voluntary redundancies."

Mr Conroy said HealthShare would be using local and statewide suppliers, while Illawarra organisation IRT would also be providing some meals to retirement homes in the area.

He thanked the Illawarra community, which had supported the unit and its workers, with 10,000 signatures collected on a petition protesting the plan.

"Ideally we'd prefer to keep the full production unit services and staff, so the result isn't 100 per cent perfect," Mr Conroy said.

"However the result is as good as we could possibly expect and we believe that's because the people of the Illawarra came out and supported us."

HealthShare NSW said staff would be fully supported throughout the process.

"HealthShare NSW is introducing a new menu for patients, working in collaboration with local hospital clinicians to meet statewide nutrition standards and improve the quality and consistency of hospital meals," its spokesperson said.

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